The Call Of The Future: Zero Waste Weddings

Jun 27 · 9 min read

If you have been on Facebook lately, you have probably seen videos of turtles tangled in plastic, birds whose stomachs are full of plastic, and reports about Global Warming.

Whether your political inclinations deny or are against global warming, the truth is, our planet is polluted, and right now, you are either part of the solution or part of the problem, there is no middle ground.

But the problem is that when it comes to bringing environmentalist values to wedding planning, if you are not in California, or don’t have a 6 digit budget, it becomes a little hard, and you might end up giving up for the sake of the circumstances.

So I want to show you, where you should be focusing your energy and resources, but first, let me introduce you to the “Buyerarchy of needs” which will be inspiring our whole journey, and I hope you look at this, read it, meditate on it, and then apply it.

Credit Sarah Lazarovic
Photo by Sandrachile

1: Focus on the things that don’t cost you anything, pick a vibe, a feeling as the guidance for your wedding day.
If you look around for wedding day inspiration, everything is based on color palettes, flowers, or decor. However, since we are trying to be intentional and not use as many material things during the wedding day, it is better to base your inspiration on intangible things rather than material things, instead choose to get inspired by feelings, or the vibe you want your wedding to have.
For example, the vibe for the image below was: “contemporary, artsy, and fresh.

Photo by Sandrachile

2: Focus on finding the core vendors for your wedding
(Yes, before setting up a date or even the location).

Once you pick the vibe, you will need to gather the elements that will bring your vision together. But Unless you are working with the proper people, translating a concept to reality within a budget, can be hard. So, before even selecting the date for your event or the location, we highly encourage you to select the group of humans that will bring this to life.

The core vendors are:
Wedding Planner

Photo by Sandrachile

Since the “ethical” journey begins before the wedding day itself, when reaching out to vendors, ask them upfront about what environmental practices they have in place.
Asking this up front will set the tone for the rest of the planning process, and if this is something that is not present in their practices, your question will surely push them in the right direction.

3: Where and When?:

Choose the date and the venue.

Whether you decide to marry at home, or in a big space, there are some things that you need to take into consideration, such as accessibility for your guest, location of your party hub, weather, and of course, environmental practices.
If you go for the most popular choice, a venue, ask them and yourself the following questions:
Does your venue send all the garbage to a landfill, or does it have any recycling practices in place?
Do they offer furniture, or do you have to rent these items separately?
Does the venue have decorative elements, or is it a plain room that needs a lot of stuff to look good?
Does it offer in house booze/catering, or can you bring your own?

So many questions, right?
From the low waste perspective, it is a priority to choose a space that offers dishes, cups, and straws that are not plastic.
(I doubt you want a turtle in the Caribbean to swim among the straws from your wedding day, right? … #justsayin)

Photo by Sandrachile

4: Let’s tell the world:

The stationery (Oh poop! When things get real)

Although an online invitation is often times more eco-friendly, in practice, not everybody is a fan of receiving an email, and being inclusive of older generations who are less e-literate, is a good way to honor them. So when it comes to papers, what alternatives are low waste?

The invitation is the first thing your guests see, it sets the mood for the day, it tells your guests whether joining is going to be worth it, and it announces what kind of party this is going to be. Once the invitations are sent, things get real, and telling your guest that this is an environmentally friendly kinda day deserves to be announced in an environmentally conscious way. Here is where the value of a designer that can custom work for you is a thousand times better than printing some DIY, but make sure the designer is open to working with eco-friendly papers.
Have you heard about paper made out of elephant poop?
When it comes to being low waste, there is nothing better than options that ethically made, creative, and contribute to giving opportunities to economically and socially marginalized groups. So do your research in regards to papers, and if you are feeling like DIYing, you can DIY the envelopes from the newspapers at your grandma’s house.

PS: Oh! And forget about RSVPs! Nowadays everybody texts, so you can use an automated text message RSVP service which is the easiest way to gather replies from your guests, and automatically organizes and counts for you. SCORE!

Stationary by Fresh Cut Prints | Photo by Sandrachile
If you never saw paper made of poop, now you did | Photo by Sandrachile

5. Creating a wedding atmosphere: Decorations
One of the things about low waste, is that sometimes it might be a little on the plain side, so for a wedding, which we want to look special, we really have to put thought into what we bring in.
Using what we have, or what you can realistically keep afterward is key.
So, first, my biggest and probably most overlooked decoration element that is also functional is: to rent lights!
I’m not talking about regular light bulbs, but lighting can make an amazing decoration, which afterward leaves zero trace.

Lights by EF Lighting | Photo by Sandrachile

Another suggestion is to use real plants as a decorative item. Not only they will give you a decoration the day of your wedding, but will decorate your house for the years to come, and imagine having the same plants that witnessed you saying “I do”, witnessing your anniversary year after year!

Tablescape with real potted plants, including moss by City Grows | Photo by Sandrachile

Another element that is overlooked but it is quite easy to make, and to compost afterward is dry flowers. You can actually invest time in planting your own and meticulously dry.

Dry lavender decorating the napkins | Photo by Sandrachile
Dry wildflowers and air plants! | Photo by Sandrachile

Finally, for any other need, hit your local thrift store! You would be surprised to see the amounts of linen available there.
Oh! And also… keep an eye on the dumpster! Someone else’s garbage always has the potential to be your treasure.

An upcycled seating chart by calligrapher Scarlet Day, using wine bottles, on some bottle cases found on the dumpster | Photo by Sandrachile
Fun fact: Glass can be recycled endlessly, with no loss in quality. | Photo by Sandrachile
The bar sign with the caps of all the beers from your bachelor party? oh-kay! | Photo by Sandrachile

5. Time to get pretty
An element of your wedding that takes a lot of mental energy, a big chunk of your money, and it makes a massive statement in regards to the environment is fashion. And if you want to make a statement, the options for your outfit are:
Ethically sourced.
Wear your own.
Make your own outfit.
Or Vintage.

This groom decided to wear his own clothes, and the bride opted for the vintage.

A $10 white vintage jumpsuit for the bride, shoes that she already owned, $20 thrifted pants for the groom, and the rest he already owned. $30 total | Photo by Sandrachile

The statement piece for the bride was her earrings, which were upcycled.
Altogether their outfits were around $30, which allowed more $$ to be allocated for other services.

Upcycled earrings by Adaptive Reuse Tin Jewelry, made of vintage cans | Photo by Sandrachile

As you can see, going this route is a great way to maximize your budget, but if you feel uncomfortable with the idea of wearing a vintage style of clothing, you can always purchase a vintage garment and budget for the services of a seamstress that can transform your vintage piece and give it a modern twist.

And don’t forget to complete the look with a statement bouquet of wildflowers, like this one from greenSinner | Photo by Sandrachile

6. Beauty

I have to be the first in recognizing that zero/low waste and the beauty industry are not the best of friends. Beauty is perhaps one of the most forgotten subjects when it comes to thinking low waste wedding, maybe, because it is not you using that bottle of shampoo that will end up in a landfill, you don’t think much about it.
Nowadays there are many makeup products companies using cruelty-free and vegan options (yay),

Make sure your wedding makeup has not been tested on bunnies! Go cruelty-free! | Photo by Sandrachile

But I learned from Becky, owner of the hair salon that does my hair, that certain brands go to the extent of manufacturing products with 100% wind power, and they purchase carbon offset credits to balance any climate impact of their aerosol hairsprays.

Amazing modern hair by Tula Organics, who’s owner Becky, taught me so much about beauty and waste | Photo by Sandrachile

She also told me about Dragon Master Foundation, a charity organization fighting to find a cure for cancer, and to whom you can send personal care and beauty containers to be recycled. This is an amazing initiative, to make the world greener and fight cancer at the same time.!

Lashes for days! | Photo by Sandrachile

In summary:
A low impact, environmentally wedding is not unrealistic. Even if you don’t live in California, and even with a small budget, all you might need is to think through and plan with time, along with a good group of ethically minded wedding vendors.

But the most important thing is to have fun, so your whole wedding day doesn’t go to “waste”. Fun pun and pic by Sandrachile :D

Planner & Aesthetic designer: Devoted To You Events @devotedtoyouevents
Florals: greenSinner @greensinner
HMUA: Tula Organic @tulaorganic
Venue: Kingfly Spirits @kingflyspirits
Lightning: EF Lighting @eflighting
Plants + Greenery: City Grows @citygrows
Photographer: Sandrachile @sandrachilep
Invitation Fresh Cut Prints @freshcutprints
Paper Mr. Ellie Pooh @mr.elliepooh
Cake: Mediterra Cake House @mediterracakehouse
Jewelry/Accessories Adaptive Reuse @christineterrell
Calligrapher- Scarlet Day Calligraphy @scarletdaycalligraphy


Written by


South American Immigrant, Wedding Photographer, Progressive Christian, and altogether opinionated woman trying to change the world.